Easy Steps to Losing Weight and Better Health
You want to lose weight.
You want to improve your state of health and maybe tone up.
You just want to feel better and stop the nagging aches and pains.
Whatever your intentions are, your goals are honorable and worth all your efforts. But let me guess, you’ve been down this road before, especially with trying to keep the weight off, right? So how do you make it happen – successfully? How do you do it in a feasible way, and most importantly, in a way that is sustainable? How do you accomplish your goals without expensive gimmicks, or unreasonable sacrifices while still being able to enjoy your life?
Well it’s not as hard as you think, but the first step is that it’s you that must make that decision. You need to have your head in the game, so to speak, but that goes for anything you set out to do with a purpose. If you’re committed to losing weight, toning up the abs or overcoming poor dietary habits, you’re already ahead of the game. While that’s obviously an important starting point, let me share some practical actions you can take to make more of a difference.
However, before I get to that, regardless of what your goal is, understanding some of the basics of how your body responds to the foods you eat will help validate and strengthen your continued success in your health or weight loss journey. What I’m about to share is not intended as criticism, but nearly every patient I talk with believes they eat fairly well. The truth is most of us don’t – not by choice anyway. We’re up against powerful giants of the food industry, and I want to help you win the battle!
The overwhelming cause of all the leading chronic diseases of our time is poor diet. More specifically, it’s the commercial food-like products that make up the vast majority of our food supply. The leading cause of our overweight and obesity problem, along with sedentary habits, is the consumption of these empty calorie foods which are nearly devoid of whole food nutrients. A meal comprised of such foods doesn’t feed the body the essential nutrients that it must have, so the body continues to crave more food. Therefore, we eat more nutrient lacking and toxic foods which are predominantly loaded with sugars, and the cycle goes on. We gain weight, and we get sick.
Besides the overconsumption of empty calories, which continuously adds to fat storage, we also take in unwanted toxins. This further complicates weight gain, because the toxins are stored in fat cells which makes them harder to get rid of, so the weight stays on. Additionally, the toxic nature of these foods, along with the lack in protective essential nutrients, is the impetus of chronic disease manifestation.
That was a very brief explanation of the problem, but I will expand on that in other posts. Nonetheless this is the message I want to make very clear; if you’re eating packaged (processed) foods, which makes up virtually everything in the grocery store that’s not in the produce section, or you’re eating out, then you are most likely starving your body for it’s essential needs, while also feeding it excessive sugars, bad fats and toxins. Without making a conscious effort to identify what you should be eating and what you should be avoiding, you are at the mercy of the commercial food industry. And trust me it is big business. They have absolutely no concerns about our health. The food industry’s labeling methods and marketing tactics are powerful and deceptive, and the restaurants and fast food establishments are supplied and controlled by this industry.
What does that have to do with steps to losing weight and better health? Because a better understanding of how your body works and why to take these steps will greatly help you to succeed in your efforts. It’s like teaching a man to fish as opposed to just giving him the meal. So, let’s take a look at some helpful methods to support the success of your efforts.
The most fundamental of all is fairly common sense, but it’s an easy one to overlook. It’s called, take out the bad, put in the good. It simply means get all the unwanted, unhealthy, inflammatory, and toxic foods out of your home and environment. Even if you think you won’t or plan not to eat it, if those chips are in the cabinet, they’re available and probably still present in your mental choices of something to eat. Clean out the pantry, the cabinets and the refrigerator.
These are some of the main things to get rid of: Cereals, crackers, chips, snack mixes, bread (yes, get rid of the loaves of bread!), candy and soda pop. I could go on, but you get the idea. I got rid of all cereal boxes and loaves of bread almost 20 years ago, when my daughter was going into high school. She never complained and we never missed it. It doesn’t mean you can never eat these foods again, although you really should say good bye to pop and cereal forever, but eliminating them from constant daily access will make significant changes for you.
Now have available several good choices. Get a nice big decorative bowl and put it on your counter, or hang those convenient produce baskets. Just place it in a central location with easy access. Then fill it with fruit! Be wise about what and how much. Pick fruits that you and your family will eat, and have enough to last for a week. Oranges and apples typically last longer than bananas or kiwi for instance. Then make sure to eat it!! Make it a rule to have at least one or two fruits a day, especially for the kids.
Another thing to have is fresh vegetables, but of course you’ll want to keep these in the refrigerator. Cut up carrots, celery, broccoli, zucchini squash, radishes or even small whole mushrooms. Again, choose things you and your family will eat and make them available. I like spicy foods, so when I’ve gone through a jar of pickled jalapenos, I leave the liquid in it and fill it with carrot sticks. My wife uses a big plastic cup half full of water and keeps celery stalks in it. They stay fresher that way and they’re easy to grab. Now, here’s the important part; you’ll want to put ranch dip/dressing on the things to remove list. Creamy dressings and dips are notoriously full of trans fats and other junk. I’ll talk about salads and dressing later, but if you absolutely must have something to put on your veggies try an all-natural peanut butter or tahini. Tahini is ground sesame seeds and it’s very similar to the consistency of peanut butter with a nice flavor. You can find both of these in the health food section of the store. Whether you’re incorporating them into meals or snacking, eat at least twice the amount of veggies as fruit through the day.
The next tip is for shopping. One of the most important habits to get into is reading the labels! Be aware though that there is a lot of deception in food labeling. I’ve done entire talks on this one subject alone! However, the most important part of the label to read is the ingredients. Whatever is in a food product has to be listed there and is in order of the amount from greatest to least. If you’ve never paid attention to that part of the label before, you will be in for an eye-opening experience. I won’t go into the details, but you can look up what many of the chemicals are that you will find there.
A few to know are hydrogenated oils, either partially or fully. These are trans fatty acids which are major contributors to heart disease, inflammatory conditions and bad for the brain – not something you want to be consuming. Also, be aware that according to the FDA, if the amount of trans fats in a product is less than 0.5 g per serving, the manufacturer can label the package with “Zero Trans Fats”. That’s actually a lot and they will manipulate the serving size to get away with it. If you think you’re buying a healthy bag of chips because it says No Trans Fats, you may actually be eating nearly 500 mg of trans fats for every serving of 10-12 chips. That adds up fast!
Another is monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is a neurotoxin. It’s a flavor enhancer that is linked to a host of health issues, including fibromyalgia, obesity, fatty liver, high insulin and blood sugar, high cholesterol, liver toxicity, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, disturbance to the gut-brain connection, neurological and brain damage. The problem with this is twofold. It’s almost impossible to avoid (in processed and fast foods) and it goes by many different names, so the better you’re equipped to identify it, the better for your health and weight loss efforts. The most common names are yeast extract, anything hydrolyzed or any hydrolyzed protein, soy protein isolate, whey protein isolate, calcium or sodium caseinate and natural flavor. But there are many more so be aware!
To demonstrate the importance of reading labels, here is a product for you to look at for yourself. Go to your store’s freezer section and, depending on your location, look for Blue Bunny All Natural Vanilla ice cream, or Breyers All Natural, Natural Vanilla. Then grab just about any other brand of plain vanilla ice cream and compare the labels. On the Breyers you will see milk, cream, sugar, gaur gum and vanilla flavor, and maybe a few others, but for the most part a very short and fairly clean list. On the other label, you will see an abundance of non-food compounds that you probably don’t want in your body. I’m not promoting ice cream, just making a point of being aware of the ingredients of processed foods. Some can be significantly worse. Another example is peanut butter. It can be a good food, but only if it’s an all-natural variety without all the additives and hydrogenated oils. A good one will have one ingredient; peanuts!
Of all the good dietary habits to get into, drinking water is at the top of the list. I must admit, I get a little irked with people about this topic. When someone tells me they don’t like water or can’t drink water, I just want to scream. Even though we take in water from other foods, we still require much more. And even though the bulk of any drink is going to be water, our metabolism responds differently when there are other substances present. It’s way too easy to take in too many calories, especially sugar, when we think we need some kind of flavor in our water or else we can’t drink it. Get in the habit of drinking the recommended half gallon of water each day, and make it just water. It will go a long way to help with your weight loss goals and support your healthy metabolism.
Obviously, the best thing you can do for your health, and the best way to lose weight and sustain it, is to eat whole foods and things that are minimally processed – a good example of which is the peanut butter I mentioned above. A plant based diet is ideal. It doesn’t mean you can’t eat meat, but you should bring the balance back to predominantly produce, nuts, healthy fats and clean whole grains (not refined into flour and turned into bread). Then to improve your intake even more, start getting as much organic foods and produce as possible. The popularity of organic foods is expanding rapidly which makes them less and less expensive. If you eat meat, try to get the cleanest possible. That means chicken or beef that has no antibiotics or hormones. These compounds do not get cooked out of meat and they wreak havoc on your metabolism and weight. Look for fish that’s wild caught, not farmed. Farmed fish are full of toxins and a poor source of omega 3 fats. You can find other meat products like bacon or deli meats which are unprocessed and have no nitrates or nitrites in them.
A great source for all these things are the farmer’s markets. I shop there almost every week for as much clean foods as possible. I get really good eggs there that are from chickens that roam free, eat bugs and not cheap grains or given drugs. The yokes are a strong orange/yellow and the flavor is so much better than from factory farmed birds. Another popular and healthy trend is growing your own! Start a small garden at home. It doesn’t have to be very big and it’s not difficult. There is an abundance of books and tutorial videos on the subject.
The last tip I have for you is probably the most important. It’s about how you can change some habits for the better. I learned to do this, sort of by accident, years ago and I’ve made use of it ever since. It comes from a technique called neuro linguistic programming (NLP), and it’s a way to try and reprogram your subconscious mind. No, I’m not going all crazy, just let me explain. Humans are primarily driven by two things; we seek pleasure and avoid pain. In order to change a habit that you don’t want, reprogram yourself to associate it with pain. Several years ago, I hosted an event where we had among other things, a box of donuts. In a moment of weakness, after the day was over, I took home the remaining donuts and ate… let’s just say a few too many. The next day I felt absolutely horrible. I had eaten so much bad food that I had a food hangover. It was awful and I knew how bad the food was that I had eaten, and I didn’t want to do that again.
I made an association with the kinds of inflammatory and toxic foods that my body doesn’t want with the horrible feelings it brings about, so that I don’t have the desire to eat it. After describing this technique at many talks and with many patients, I have found that it has made a big impact and helped many people to change their association with bad foods. It’s very common to feel bad after eating bad foods just like it is if too much alcohol is consumed. It’s more obvious as we get older, but what makes it more dramatic is when you clean up your diet. After eating a clean, whole food based diet for a period of time, then let’s say you go to a family potluck with lots of junk, I guarantee you will feel miserable the next day. That’s the best lesson ever to learn how much your body hates inflammatory and toxic foods! Make use of that and let it be imprinted on your brain! Now, when I walk by the bakery section, it may look good, but I know exactly how it makes me feel and I’m not tempted.
Practice, practice, practice is my mantra to my patients. Your body craves the nutrients it must have for life to happen. When you feed it those essentials, you are more satiated so the desire to keep eating goes away. Over time you truly start losing the attraction to the junk that you don’t need, and as you will learn, your body doesn’t want.
Be clean, clear out the cupboards and I wish you well in your health and weight loss efforts!